April 13, 2014

Procrastination Nation

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours sorting through and filing all the documents in my "file pile".

You read that correctly.  A couple of hours.

The primary reason for finally buckling down and doing this task that I only manage to complete a few times per year (hence how the pile gets to be so large and unwieldy)?

Well, kids.  The tax deadline is fast approaching.

Now, I have a folder with all of the tax documentation.  And, I've got the latest version of the tax prep software updated.

So, of course, I'm going to update my blog...

This week was a bit of a miss in terms of my running goals.  I didn't get in any good strength work at all, and my mileage was only 29.83 total.

My two good workouts weren't too bad, it was just the rest of the week that was tough.  The washing machine died on me, the kitchen remodel needed time with professionals on-site, and work picked up too -- which made committing to the scheduled mileage and/or workouts difficult.  I'm happy to say I made myself get on my feet and do *something* on every day but 1 day.  But the quality and time of those efforts was somewhat sub-par.  Oh well.  Some weeks I just have to tell myself that something is better than nothing.  And it is.

Despite the decreased mileage and crazy schedule, we ate quite healthy and I managed to drop another pound, so that's continued progress in that direction.

Speed -- track day:  This week's workout was a bit more difficult for me than normal because the track coach wasn't doing the workout.  When she's not also running, she tends to be much more strict about enforcing the recovery intervals.  My legs were still a bit heavy from the 10K last Sunday, but I just told myself to do my best.  I ran 2.21 miles warm-up to go get my car (which I'd left onsite at a client), drove the 7 minutes to the track, did another 0.18 mile jog/walk w/u at track and jumped in to the workout; 3 X (2 X 600 R/I:60) 400 R/I jogging between sets (splits: 3:00; 3:01; 3:05; 3:02; 3:05; 3:10), then I slapped on another 1.10 miles jog/walking c/d.  This pushed the mileage up to 6.41 miles, which is a great mid-week mileage day.  But, this week, it was my only mid-week day even remotely longer than 3 miles.

Long -- beautiful run in San Francisco with Jen today. 

(Stolen Photos from Jen below.)

One of the amazing views from the Lands End Trails

These stairs are why I didn't stress about the paces... no joke!


I had 14 on the calendar and Jen had 20, so we agreed to meet up at mile 6 of her run and do the last bit together.  I woke with a bit of a funky stomach, skipped the coffee as a result, and headed up to the meet-up place.  On the drive I got a text from Jen indicating that she may also have a bit of a funky belly, and that she would be 5 minutes later than expected due to a detour.  I walked a bit to warmup and placed myself at the intersection we'd agreed upon.  I waited several minutes longer than I expected and started to worry that it may have been a mistake to leave my phone back at my car (0.25 miles away at this point).  Just as I was deciding whether I should run back to my car, Jen came into sight -- turns out the map she'd used was short, the meetup point was at 6.6 miles instead of 6 miles!  Delay explained.

After this auspicious start, we decided to modify the route on the fly.  I was happy to write off the extra 0.6 miles, I just needed to get in a good long run.  Jen wanted to avoid the loop through the Sunset she'd originally planned because it had street intersection with traffic, so we headed down Sloat and along the Great Highway's trail.

Immediately, it became clear that my stomach was not happy with me and that I would need a restroom in the first couple of miles.  I considered hopping into a porta potty that was at someone's home for construction, but managed to preserve a small bit of dignity and held on for a public restroom.  And voila -- there it was -- the most glorious public bathroom I've ever used.  This building was my savior sent to me via time machine, complete with marble, tile, numerous stalls, molding at the ceiling -- all clean!  The world was a much better place after this gift from the past.

From there, Jen and I gamely ran slowly but steadily, out the Great Highway, up past the Cliff House, up into Lands End and up a million stairs to the top of the trail.  Jen gave me a high-five when we reached the Lands End trail entrance and I smiled.  Nothing like another runner to know the internal pride you feel when you finish a climb like that one (169 feet in mile 4, plus another 108 feet in mile 5).

The Lands End trail system is gorgeous.  While I'd been going to the Cliff House and the Sutro Baths off and on since childhood, I'd never been out to the trails.  They are recently expanded, very well maintained and the views are some of the best in the world.  I think I may need to arrange a hike with a group of friends.

At mile 7 or so, I apologized to Jen for holding her back.  I was pokier than I'd planned and I knew she had some pace goals I may be keeping her from hitting.  She surprised me by saying that she was struggling (this was on the climb back into the city through Golden Gate park) and was thinking about cutting back the mileage.  In hindsight, it shouldn't have surprised me.  We were gamely doing our best, but the whole day hadn't really gone according to plan for either of us.

From here, I decided just to play it by ear.  We considered adding a loop around Stow lake, got lost on our way there, finally made it there and after about half a mile, decided to head back out to the main road and just run to the car and let the mileage land where it did.

Towards the end, since I knew I'd be a little shorter than my planned 14, I threw in 4 HIIT intervals, all under 1 minute.  I was pretty tired, and the paces I hit showed it: 7:52; 8:18; 8:48; 9:07.  But, there's something about throwing in a hard effort at the end of a long run that fills me with a sense of accomplishment.  For me, since pushing myself on pace is one of my weaknesses, I think hard efforts at the end of long runs are actually much more difficult than slogging through the extra miles.  After the intervals, I jogged and walked back to the car with Jen after we left the main part of the park.  Total miles: 12.  Average Pace: 12:00/mile including all the walk breaks and the hiking up and down the stairs.

Overall, I'm very happy with this run.  It was great to catch up with Jen, and it's the first time in a long time that 12 miles felt "easy".  While it was slower, given the hills, I think it was comparable to the last 12 miler I did with F.  The difference is, after that one I was completely done, as were my legs, whereas this time, I definitely had more than enough energy left.  Bonus, my legs feel relatively fresh right now a few hours later, which is the first time that's happened after a long run in quite a while (probably partially due to my accidental step-back week).

So that's the week in a nutshell.  Off to get Guito some much-needed sunshine (I'll get to those taxes, I swear...).

April 9, 2014

Double Duty

First there was the pyrex incident that killed our garbage disposal.  So, we're scraping by without one (for the first time in my life, actually) until we finish the kitchen remodel.

Then, a day or so ago, our washing machine decided to die mid-cycle.

(I think water-based appliances may be going on strike at our house).

But, I can't really complain.  We bought the cheapest washer and dryer that Sears would sell us 11 years ago and we haven't had a single problem.

The real issue was, why did it have to die mid-cycle?  These clothes were sopping wet. 

So, yesterday, instead of my run, I hand-wrung the clothes and found a new purpose for the tomato cages:



Thank goodness this didn't happen in late summer when the cages would all be occupied by 6 foot tall plants!



April 6, 2014

SLO Week -3 (Baby Steps)

On the running front, I managed to string together another decent week and I dropped a pound or so.  Both of these are baby steps (but in the right direction). My goals for each week continue to be simple:

1. Get in at least one good core strength and stretching day (either yoga or calisthenics/weight lifting/stretching in a gym).

2. Get in 3 substantive running workouts, ideally one speed, one strength, and one endurance.

3. Fit in as much mileage as I can, even if it's walking.  (This week's total:  36.49 miles)

This week, I hit all 3 (I'm counting a 10K with a 1.5 mile jogging warm-up as a mixed strength and endurance day), so I'm a happy kid.

Monday, E was sick, so we canceled our hotel up in SF and I made myself go to the gym and do an hour of cross-training.  10 minutes on the elliptical to warm-up.  Then a myriad of weights and calisthenics and stretching.

I am *always* so sore after my core/cross-training days.  Lately, I've been inspired by bloggers who are rehabbing from injuries as well as running magazines and I've been adding more glute-focused work as well as specifically recommended running-focused strength work.  It is clear that my muscle memory and brain think I am actually much stronger than my body actually is.  Every week, I do what I think should be a reasonable yoga and/or strength workout and the next day my muscles scream at me and I realize it was less reasonable than I thought.

I'm not complaining, it's just interesting.  I definitely don't have this issue with running.  I never go out for what I think is a reasonable speed workout, for example, and find out the next day that it was actually hard.  I *know* when my running workouts are hard while I'm doing them.  With weight-bearing strength though, not so much... And this, my friends, is why I am one of the few women in the world who can accidentally build too much muscle.

Turns out, despite the fears of most women, it's non-trivially difficult for most women (and men) to build too much bulk as a result of lifting weights and/or doing explosive dynamic loading.  Thanks to genetics, this is not completely true for me... and yet, I still lift and risk it.  Why?  Well, I am fairly certain that one of the main reasons I am rarely injured (despite consistently maintaining an average of 20-50 miles per week for almost 10 years and weight that has fluctuated more than 30 lbs up and down during that time) is that I am functionally strong.  In addition to strength genes, I believe I have a combination of a childhood of athletics and college athletics to thank for this.  But, now that I'm entering middle age, I just want to preserve and maintain as much of that strength in as intelligent of a manner as possible.

My substantive workouts were straightforward.

Track Day for Speed:   1.3 miles w/u jog, strides, and drills.  3.12 miles total intervals plus recovery (200, 2X400; 2X800; 2X400; 200) Paces:  6:44; 7:41; 7:37; 7:59; 8:04; 7:45; 7:49; 6:43  (It's so gratifying to watch my speed paces drop as the weeks go by...)

As I mentioned, I cheated and combined by strength and endurance workouts this week because I wanted to run in a local 10K to get a fitness check.  I jogged about 15 minutes to the start at an easy pace and stood in line for a very long time to register (partially killing my warm-up, but what are you going to do?) -- next time I'll definitely do the online registration and show up earlier!

My goal was to try to hit 9ish minute miles and to see if I could sustain it for the whole race.  Unfortunately, I wasn't quite in shape enough to pull it off, and I did the dreaded positive split, but I knew that was a possibility going in.  I pushed myself for a great hour-ish long sustained effort and it definitely helped me figure out where I am in my fitness (in hindsight, I should have gone out at 9:10 and tried to sustain and push it in the last mile... oh well...).

Splits:

1:  8:47
2:  8:54
3:  9:01
4:  9:23
5:  9:30 (5 second walk through the water break)
0.97: 9:17/mile pace

As you can see, the race was quite short for a 10K.   But, I wasn't complaining.  I was *done* when I hit the finish line.  I was thrilled to see 54:33 on the clock, but I knew I hadn't run anything close to the 8:48 pace that time would have required.

After the race, I met up with  Angela. We headed out for a hearty post-race breakfast and we chatted and became fast real-world friends to supplement our bloggy friendship.  She'd had quite an impressive performance in the 5K, so we headed back for the awards ceremony, where she picked up 2nd in her age group.  This race was actually much larger and faster than I expected.  The overall men's winner for the 5K ran a 16:XX and there were many folks in the 18s to the low 20s including several very impressive older masters and younger kids.


Overall, I very much enjoyed the event and I think I may try to make it a regular on my calendar -- it's hard to argue with a race you can jog to as a warm up from your front door.  Plus, three other folks from Silicon Valley Striders ran, and it's always fun to see folks you know at a race.

Finally, I got to do my shake-out easy day today with E and 2 other friends.  I ran 1.5ish miles to the trailhead, met them all there, we all did 0.5 miles medium with 0.25 walking intervals until we hit 3+; and then I ran home and we all went out for brunch.  This was a very pleasant and fun way to get in more than 6 miles on a recovery day.  Left to my own devices, I probably would have called it at 4 miles.  Yet another reason to be thankful for local friends!

March 30, 2014

SLO Half week -4

Total Mileage:  35.03 including several easier runs, a little walking, and 3 Key Workouts.

Solo speed intervals: (couldn't join the track group, but did their workout on my own around my neighborhood).  1 mile TM 1% easy w/u at 11ish/mile pace; 4.05 miles of intervals 2X(600, 400, 200, 400 2:00 R/I) 3:00 R/I; walk c/d  Paces:  8:32; 8:59; 8:16; 8:24; 8:40; 8:36; 8:51; 9:03;

This speed workout was much slower than the paces I hit when I join the track group, but I was proud of myself for getting out there and making the effort (even if slower) rather than bailing completely in favor of an easy mid-length run.

Strength intervals:  Mile 1: 8:15 (Yes!  I knew the elevation and skiing was going to benefit me).  Of course, the point of the strength intervals is to spend considerable time at close to race pace, and 8:15/mile isn't a reasonable race pace for me right now.  So, I opted for a longer interval for #2 -- 2 miles at 17:57.

Long run with F (including D and K for the first couple of miles as well).  12.21 miles at an average pace of 11:23.  This doesn't sound that impressive, but I'm actually quite proud of it.  I only stopped for one quick walk break towards the end for 0.05 miles.  Otherwise, I ran (slowly) for the entire 2h18m with no fuel other than the pre-run coffee and juice.  This is exactly the type of long run (consistent effort and time on my feet) that I know improves my fitness.  The last two miles were a mental struggle and I slowed considerably.  I was *very* grateful for F's company.

Overall, I'm pleased with my progress (and tired today, post-long-run) and looking forward to next weekend's 10K to get a good fitness assessment.

March 29, 2014

A Little Variety

Last weekend, on our walk to Sunday night date night dinner, E & I stopped to chat with a neighbor who has some very nice plants (both edible and decorative).  I'd admired from afar what they'd done with the front yard ever since they'd moved in (you put chard in newly added soil along your sidewalk?  we will be friends).  So I was happy to see her out watering and to introduce myself.

As you may know, I love to garden.

And this is how I made my new friend, J, who is awesome.  She's the most foul-mouthed person I've encountered in a long time.  She's also a dedicated gardener, hippy, bee-keeper, greenhouse maintainer, and full-time mom of 2 (5 and 7).  Her spoken vernacular reminds me so much of many of my brother's friends from our hometown, which is a nice spice of variety that I rarely encounter in the bay area.  She's also super opinionated and open with her views (quite often very much in opposition to the norm in the bay area), which, frankly, is a bit refreshing.  I may or may not agree with her, but it's nice to be challenged to think and/or realize that others in the world see things from a different perspective.

Today, at 10:30 AM, our doorbell rang.  We ignored it.  I was working in my robe, trying to get enough done to justify heading out for an easy run before brunch/lunch and a much-deserved bloody mary.  E was working/puttering around the interwebs in his pajamas.  It was Saturday, we had no plans, and we certainly expected no visitors.

We heard voices and assumed it was a solicitor.  But, after a few minutes, there was another knock.  They were insistent!  I opened the curtains to peer out and saw J -- Holding a seedling in her hands.

Oh!  That's right.  I'd told her to stop by this weekend and I'd give her some tomato seedlings.

I love that she remembered and came on over.  I loved even more that she brought me a plant, too!  I yelled, "Just a minute!"  Threw on some real clothes and opened the door.

We proceeded to talk for at least 45 minutes about the sunflower seedling gift she'd brought (supposed to grow taller than me!), plus gardening and nature and the weather and cops and crime and her views on the law and contracts and construction and bees and praying mantises and ladybugs and greenhouses and her gift with seeds and, of course, guito and our mutual love of reptiles. 

All of this was peppered with her *extremely* colorful language.  Those of you who know me in the meat-world know that I can have quite a sailor's mouth.  I try to moderate it around children, but often I fail.  Even so, J puts me at my most unfiltered to shame.  Every 3rd or 4th word out of her mouth is a hearty invective. 

The funniest part of this whole exchange to me was realizing that I must have physically flinched every time she used the word "bitch".  I hate that word.  I am generally tolerant and unfazed by just about any type of curse words (other than racial or other minority-demeaning epithets, which she didn't use). 

But "bitch" just really upsets me.  In fact, I once almost left E at a party when we first started dating (and I'd driven him to the party and he had no car and we were at least 20 miles from his apartment) because he used the word "bitch" for the first time in front of me. 

Perhaps it's because I was raised in a family where this word was actually used in it's technically correct sense (my father had hunting dogs, and the term "bitch in heat" is actually a medically important condition that needs to be controlled for...).  Perhaps it's because every time I hear it, I think, "what's the male equivalent?" and when I can't figure it out my head explodes.  Frankly, I don't know why.  I just know that I viscerally hate it.

So, at the end of her visit, just before she left, she shared yet another story about her landlord, who she'd regularly referred to as "that bitch" or "such a bitch" and she said, "so I told the plumber... 'oh-no! You call that b...woman back.  You make her pay you for the work you did!'"

And I realized... wow!  She just self-censored.  It must be very obvious that I *really* don't like that word.  I'm not even sure I want to be the reason people self-censor.  I'd rather have a thoughtful conversation about the term and discuss whether she wants to use it after we consider why it bothers me so much and also why it clearly doesn't bother her.

But no, we didn't get there.  She made a huge linguistic effort on my behalf, so now I'm an even bigger fan of J than I already was.  We share so many common interests that are relatively uncommon, *and* she paid enough attention to my reactions (that I didn't even know I was having) to modify her language.

Sometimes life gives us such great unexpected gifts.  And today, I am consciously grateful.

March 23, 2014

Ski Week (aka SLO half marathon week -5)

E and I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to spend half the week skiing with his family (who went for the full week).



His family tries to go on a full-fledged proper ski-week vacation every year.  I understand this.  I was raised in a family that sent kids up the hill in ski-bus-clubs every weekend during ski season.  There was a time when I was quite a good downhill skier.  Unfortunately, that time has passed.

My gymnastics coach insisted that I couldn't do ski club after age 15 if I wanted to continue with being on the competitive gymnastics team.  My soccer coach took the same position.  Given that this was essentially the *only* point they ever agreed on (that's not fair, they both also agreed that I should do agressive physical therapy and strengthen my medial quads after my first patellar subluxation), I listened to them.  When I quit ski-club, I was a hot-dogging jumping, mogul-racing animal.

And now?  Now, I am an intermediate skier of middle age.  In fact, it's worse than that.  Because I know I'm heavier than I've been in almost a decade, so I'm *extra* concerned about laterally loading my knees.  I don't exactly have an active lateral knee-loading lifestyle... not a ton of soccer, basketball, side-to-side sprints in my day-to-day existence, but boy do I have a history of blowing out my knees when laterally loaded.  Essentially, I'm slow, cautious, only willing to do jumps on terrain parks at minimal speed, avoiding moguls, and very concerned about doing serious harm. 

So, c'est la vie...  Given that background, you'd think I'd be the most hesitant person on the family ski trip, but alas, sadly, no... E's dad, before we even arrived (note to those of you thinking of joining older parents on ski trips.... GO FOR THE FIRST HALF!), took a nasty fall and managed to royally crack his clavicle into two parts that are very far apart from one another at this point (aka... surgery town...).  So, by the time we arrived, he wasn't even skiing at all, and both E and I felt horrid that we'd been too busy with work to even join him for skiing for 3 years.  VACATION WITH YOUR FAMILY WHEN THEY INVITE YOU!

On the running front, holy crap... downhill skiing when there are no lines and heavy snow at altitude is like track intervals.  I'm looking forward to reaping the benefits of this.

This week was chill:

Monday Core at the hotel in SF.

Tuesday 4ish easy around AT&T park.

Wed HIIT 3ish 4X1 min w/4 min jogging plus w/u cooldown.

Th-Sa skiing/elevation.

Sunday -- 25 minutes running at 6,000 feet -- roughly 13:00/mile, but nice and easy.

Overall, it was nice step-back week.  According to various calculations, it is roughly 21.78 miles running equivalent.  It felt like more than that in terms of time on my feet, but I like the timing and the strength/effort will pay off.  Overall, in addition to an awesome work and family/social week, I feel good about the progress I'm making towards SLO.  Also, I'm super excited for all of my friends who had such a great day at the Oakland Running Festival today.

March 16, 2014

Runspiration

So, for any of you who've became fit after not being fit, you know how exciting it is to make every little breakthrough.  For me, this week was so fun.  After several weeks of gradual build up, and three weeks of relatively intelligent concerted effort, this week I finally saw and felt some obvious fitness improvements.

Before we get to that, though, I'd like to point out that my favorite runner, Des Linden (formerly d'Avila) ran a 1:11:37 half at the New York Half Marathon today, on the tail end of 120 mile week:




*I AM SO EXCITED TO WATCH THE BOSTON MARATHON!*

Back in 2011, I woke early and watched the full race via internet streaming on universalsports.com, and woke up E crying and clapping when Desi battled to her epic 2nd place finish.

I was so proud of her for any number of ridiculous self-identifying reasons (she's short, a Californian, a former soccer player, a ridiculously hard worker, supremely self-confident but also shy and/or awkward in a way I recognize, etc., etc.).  So, I did a bunch of research about Brooks-Hansen, was impressed with what they were doing for distance running in the U.S. and I switched to Brooks shoes.  I read the Hansons Marathon Method and implemented it, resulting in a ton of self-learning about who I am as a runner and both of my best long running efforts in the last few years (Coeur d'Alene, and CIM in 2011).

Returning to me, in much less dramatically fun running news, this week is the 4th week in a row I've hit 3(ish) key workouts/goals.

First thing I'm proud of -- total weekly mileage of 38.74.  I know myself and I know I need to get above 40mpw to start seeing actual impressive physical benefits.  I'm so happy that I've made the necessary commitments to get (almost) there.  I can feel the breakthroughs coming.  Mind you, this week's mileage includes at *least* 10 miles of walking, but for me, just committing to getting out on my feet is the important thing, and I know that.  Once I'm out there for the volume consistently, I tend to quickly decrease the total percentage of walking volume.

Track Day:  I sincerely owe my nascient local running club the Silicon Valley Striders for this one. There is no way I'd be increasing in my fitness as much as I have been these last few weeks, if I hadn't been joining SVS for both weekly track days and long run days. This Wednesday's track day was a struggle, but I did my best:

- 1.14 miles jogging warm-up (this is all me, the club usually shows up just for drills to warm up, but I'm old, and I have a hard time running fast without some easy time on the feet, plus, given that it decreases the pain of the track intervals it's kind of a freebie in terms of mileage).

- 0.35 miles drills & warm-up lap;

- 3.42 miles intervals
--(4X200 (:30 R/I): 49, 50, 53, 53)
--(400 jogging R/I)
--(2X(600; 200 walk R/I; 400; 1:00 R/I; 400)): 600@8:27 pace; 400@7:52; 400@7:55; 600@7:59; 400@8:09; 400@8:41)
--3X100 (:30 R/I) @ 6:30ish pace

Sadly, I had to leave immediately and did the dreaded driving cooldown... C'est La Vie.

Increased Long Run Effort:  Again, I owe SVS, first, I ran 3ish miles to join the SVS group at the park for the scheduled Sunday run.  But, I decided to take a new route and I got lost.  I had to pick up the pace.  Then, I hit the wrong button on my watch.  The end result is that I believe I did approximately 3.25 miles or so at 9:45/mile pace.  My goal had been 2.89 miles at 10/mile pace -- so we'll call this a win.

Then, I did 7 miles with K for her final long run before her first race (a half marathon! How cool is that?).   She kicked ass.  She started out so fast during the first mile that I tattled on her to the running club leader and made her slow down.  We completed the full 7 miles at an average pace of 11:43 after forced longer walk breaks and the pacers getting in front of her and slowing her down, compared to previous averages of 11:59ish.  I'm excited to see how she does at her first half marathon (the  Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon).

Then, F was sweet enough to pace me on my final effort mile in the park after the long easy effort.  I was somewhat suspicious that I didn't have the fitness to meet my goal, but no, I drafted for 1.5 loops and hit a mile at 8:59 after 10 miles medium and easy.  I can't even tell you how much this milestone meant to me.  I started this re-integration into fitness process about 20 pounds heavier than I should be.  But knowing I am headed in the right direction starting from such a disadvantage has me super excited about what I may be able to accomplish if I drop the weight.  I am stronger than I realized right now, which, in all honesty, is one of the cooler realizations you can make about yourself.

In other news, K, F & I all have significant others who don't really run (E is probably the biggest runner of all of them, and he often joins me for 1.5 miles hard in the low 9's or high 8's before a walking cooldown).  Today, at a party, K's SO and E agreed to sell out F's SO -- they agreed they will run a 5K so long as F's SO runs it as well.  I love mens' competitive willingness to sell each other out.  I am hopeful we can make this happen (and even more hopeful we could create a healthy fun habit we could all share).

March 9, 2014

Back on the Horse

So, my efforts to regain some semblance of racing fitness before the SLO half went quite well this week. I fit in a 5 mile hike, another 4 miles of walking, and 25 miles of running for a total weekly mileage of 35.87 miles (a high water mark for the year).

Every runner has their own approach as to how they regain fitness best, but for me, I like to focus on increasing my total mileage by not caring about the pace on the slow/easy days (or walks), but make sure I fit in a few key workouts at target paces.

This week, I fit in three hard running workouts, which feels like quite the accomplishment.

Hard Workout #1 (speed):  Track Day (total mileage: 4.98) 

-1.37 miles jogging warm-up. 0.30 walking/stretching. 0.36 drills & build-up lap.

-The meat of the workout: Intervals including 2 split 1200s (800 @ 80%; 200 jog; 200 @ 90%) with a 3 minute jogging recovery interval; Followed immediately by a last 800 @ 80%.  Actual paces: 800@8:19/mile; 200@6:33/mile; 800@8:41/mile; 200@7:03/mile; 800@8:12/mile.

-Final effort: 3X100 strides (avg 7:00) w/100 RI

I'd never done these split 1200s before and they are *tough* but in a good way -- digging deep into that final 200 is mentally difficult, but physically not as impossible as it seems like it should be.  I may try to fit in another session or two of these before the race.

Hard Workout #2 (strength):  4 Mile Intervals w/H (total mileage: 5.45)

-0.53 jogging warm-up (11:40/mile).
-1st mile at 8:51.  3 min walk R/I.
-2nd mile at 8:57. 5 min walk R/I.
-3rd mile at 8:56. 4 min walk R/I.
-4th mile @ 8:59 (slightly short due to a watch snafu). 5 min walk R/I

After we finished the last interval, and while we were walking back to the cars, I realized my key had fallen out of my zipper pocket.  We'd run a large loop, and my key could have fallen out anywhere along the way.  We did some cursory searching near the bathrooms by the cars as I'd used them before the last interval, but we didn't find it, and the reality of the terrain we'd been on and the distance we'd covered meant that I just didn't have the time to search carefully everywhere it might be.

So, I borrowed H's phone, called E, and asked him to bring me my spare key.  Then, I walked around some more to cool down, and I did some pushups, dips, abs, and stretching.  Finally, I headed back to the gravel by the cars and idly scanned the ground... and then I saw something SHINY!  It was my key.  Immediately I looked up at the sky and said a quick thanks.  I could feel my Dad with me so clearly at that moment.  I managed to get E on the phone before he got on the freeway.  Disaster Averted! 

Hard Workout #3 (distance):  10 Miles w/G (total mileage: 10.2) 

I've been doing weekend long runs with a good friend of mine, G, who is training for the Oakland Half.  This was her longest run ever, and she did a great job.  We typically average somewhere just sub 12:00/mile including walk and water breaks.  Today was no different.  Around mile 3, I needed to peel off to use the restrooms.  These restrooms are about 0.15 miles off the trail, so I bid G adieu, and picked up the pace, running hard to the restrooms and back to the trail.  G had put some distance between us in that time period, and I ended up running 2 (unexpected on my distance day) good solid miles catching back up to her (9:49 and 9:58).

All in all, this is the best running week I've had in a long time.  So that feels great!  Here's to hoping I can string several of these together over the next few weeks.

February 28, 2014

8 Weeks 'til the next Half

So I registered for the SLO half marathon.

I desperately needed a goal. The Kaiser half was my last goal. And it successfully got me out of my slovenliness.  But, I needed a new goal to actually try to regain my former status as somewhat fit.

I'd originally hoped to do the Oakland Half Marathon for the third year in a row. Such a great race. But, family travel killed that plan.

So, here I am.  Registered for a race in my Dad's hometown instead. 8 weeks away.  Last week's long run was 8 miles, so I have distance on my side.

I have a good feeling.

I've got a tentative training schedule in excel that involves consistent long runs on the weekends, some HITT in the shorter weekend runs, and some yoga, a track day a week, and good easy running days to round it out on the calendar.

Also, after today's visit to the doctor and the reality of my BMI, I'm more committed than normal to some very healthy eating -- yikes.

My goals are simple:

1. To Finish.
2. To Finish in less time than it took me to finish Kaiser SF (the course in SLO is *much* more demanding).

Based on how my training goes, I'll likely add more specific time goals closer to the event.

It feels good to have running goals again.  I look forward to seeing how these 8 weeks play out.

Happy Running, Friends!  

February 25, 2014

Makin' Mochi

In case you were wondering what it looked like when E was being yelled at by the dudes at Inakaya to pound sticky rice:

video
The answer is -- very entertaining.

Book Club

We read Wuthering Heights for February's book club.

I'd never read it, nor seen any of the movies. 

But somewhere along the line, I'd heard about the dark and dreamy Heathcliff.  And his love for Catherine.  I had a picture of the grave with his name in my mind as well.

I thought I'd signed up to read a classic romantic tale.  You know what?  I had no idea what this book was about.

While there were a few moments of tenderness and love, for the most part, it was a dark and sad tale of mental illness, alcoholism, hurtful behavior, oppression of women, child-abuse, and just general sad human reality.  The mental and physical violence were staggering.

Also, the writing was difficult.  Unlike our last two books, The Great Gatsby or Age of Innocence, none of us had any favorite passages we wanted to read aloud to the group.

I'm glad I finally read it, discussed it with my book club, and now have my own opinions about it.  But truly, I'm perplexed at how this book became known as a romantic classic.

There is very little about it that is romantic at all.  If anything, the most impressive part is how Emily Bronte writes such believably bi-polar and alcoholic characters a full 45 years before Freud even begins his foray into psychoanalysis.

In short, this book was hard work.  I am glad I completed it, but I doubt I will return to it again.

February 24, 2014

Home

We're home for several weeks in a row.  It's a nice change.

Last week was a nice recovery from travels week, although if I had to do it again, I think I might have turned down some of the new work that came in.

In addition to the work, we fit in the usual necessities.

Laundry.

Guito. 

Home cooking of light meals.

One night and two half days in SF for work.

Gardening.

Running -- a slow 25 miles last week including several walk breaks, but at least I got in 3 X (4X200) at the track on Wednesday.

Weekend brunches with E and spontaneous social activities with friends.

And now, it's Monday again.  I'm not going to lie.  I could really use another day or two on my weekend.


February 18, 2014

Japan

The trip in food shorthand: sushi, traditional multi-course japanese meals, shabu, kaiten-zushi, teppanyaki, onigiri & rice crackers, xiaolongbao, ramen, robata, and more onigiri and rice crackers.  Mmmmm....Did I mention I LOVE Japanese food?

Prettiest Bento Meal I've Ever Seen (and Eaten)
  

So, E & I just completed a week-long trip to Japan.  We had a wonderful vacation in Japan back in 2008, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano and Okinawa. This trip, in contrast, was for business, and it was all Tokyo.
Entrance To the Hie Shrine

On the flight over, I listened to about 4 hours of language lessons (shout-out to http://www.japanesepod101.com/) and was pleased to realize that my brain had actually kept a bit of the Japanese language study I'd done before our last trip somewhere deep in the recesses.  It was quite fun, actually.  For every lesson I did, I recalled another 4-5 words, phrases, or concepts from my memory that I thought I'd completely forgotten.  Bonus.

All the Foxes (Toyokawa Inari Shrine)

Even so, my command of the audio and spoken language was nowhere near what it was last time (and it's not like my Japanese was very good then, either).  But, in a surprising (to me) development, my Chinese studies actually paid off quite a bit.  I could read the few characters I recognized and know what basic things meant, even if I couldn't say them or understand what was being said.  Also, I can memorize what a character looks like thanks to my Chinese studies, which was helpful when trying to identify restaurants, etc.  I think it was actually easier to get around this time than last time, even though my spoken language skills were much worse.  Reading is important kids!

We arrived at almost midnight and caught the very last train to Shinagawa from Haneda.  Nothing lets you know it's time to get out quite like the meticulous shutting down the train station ritual of ten or so uniformed and white gloved Japanese guards.  From there, we managed to get a taxi to understand where our hotel was and he dropped us off in front of a completely closed building.

Yay for international adventures!  We were officially in the land of the weird.

Big Fox (Toyokawa Inari Shrine)

Eventually, we found our way through a mall and some banquet rooms to the lobby and an early morning sleep.  Wednesday we both worked, although we did manage to hit a sushi bar in the hotel for lunch.  E splurged on a more expensive set meal than I did and for his troubles he was rewarded with both uni and a live shrimp that waved its little legs around immediately prior to being butchered and placed on his nigiri rice -- that was a bit more graphic than we were expecting, but when in Rome...

For the first dinner, since the negotiations were done and the deal was closed, we met up with some of E's Japanese business partners and they treated us to a delicious 9 or 10 course meal.  Oh man.  I love me some Japanese food.  So many delicate, delicious, fabulous treats.  The partners were very impressed with our appetites for Japanese food and chopstick skills, and surprised at our explanation that in the bay area, it's considered standard to have good chopstick skills, regardless of whether you are Asian.

View of Roppongi

Thursday, E had press meetings and I had calls and work.  I woke at 4 AM and couldn't sleep any later, so, trying my best to be quiet and directing my laptop screen away from the bed, I was able to work 6 hours straight before 10 AM -- such a luxury.  From there, I hit the gym, which required me to walk through the mall (of course) in my workout clothes.  Given the looks I received, I'm fairly certain I was committing some sort of serious social faux pas.  Oh, well.  I'm a gaijin.  Not my fault...

Since I managed to close out all of my immediate work needs, I decided to treat myself to some culture and walked to two nearby shrines for my lunch break.  We were staying in Akasaka, which is primarily a business district, so I ended up walking amongst the salarymen and salarywomen and watching them delve into their phones in the calm of the shrines.  In both shrines, I was the only non-asian person and one of the few people who were actually taking in the sites.  Most of the people seemed to be simply seeking a peaceful break from the density and chaos.

Shrine, just smack dab in the middle of sky-scrapers


These shrines were both designated shinto shrines (apparently at least one was originally a Buddhist shrine but its story was modified to avoid destruction at some point), and each had its own designated animal (fox and monkey).




On Friday, we woke to snow.  Actually, I woke at 6 AM and worked 'til 9 without looking outside, but when I did, I was amazed at the view.  It hadn't snowed in Tokyo in 14 years before the week prior, and now it had snowed twice in one week.  We were a bit concerned about the logistics of moving to our weekend hotel, as we'd heard horror stories of the city's inability to handle the snow, but we managed to get to our new hotel in Roppongi unscathed.



For Valentines' day dinner, we splurged on teppanyaki at the Ritz Carlton.  E opted for the Japanese beef and I had spiny lobster.  For dessert, we sat at the window and watched the snow fall.  The hotel is on the 45th floor and supposedly has great views, but due to the snow, we really could only see for a quarter of a mile or so.  Even so, it was a wonderful way to celebrate.

Saturday, I woke, worked from 6-8:30 or so (it was Friday evening back home), and then headed to the gym at our new hotel, which was to die for.  I spent 2.5 hours working out, stretching (pigeon pose!), doing core and arm strength work, showering, getting in the hot tub, the cold plunge, and preparing for the day.  Such a luxury!

For our Saturday tourist activities, we enjoyed xiaolongbao at Nanxiang Dumplings, took in the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Mori art museum (and enjoyed a drink afterwards, as the 53rd floor view of Tokyo from the Mori Tower was wonderful now that it had stopped snowing), walked around Akasaka in the snow a bit, had an early dinner of ramen (complete with automated order ticket machine confusion), snacks of rice triangles and beer, and I was in bed by 7:20 PM.

53rd Floor of the Mori Tower
After the super early bedtime, I was worried that I would wake up too early and would be stuck trying to be quiet and not making light pollution, but I slept a blissful 11 hours and 25 minutes 'til 6:45.  Glorious.  I headed to the mall attached to our hotel and worked from the Starbucks for an hour and a half -- amazing how working on a Sunday AM doesn't bother me at all when I've had a supreme sleep beforehand.  From there, I headed back to the amazing spa and gym and repeated the 2.5 hour routine from the day before.  I can only imagine how fit (and relaxed) I'd be if there was a spa and gym like this in my daily life!


Tokyo Skytree


For Sunday's fun, we headed to the Tokyo Skytree, but were informed that the observation decks were closed due to wind (it was quite windy).  So, instead, we waited in line to take the elevator to the 31st floor and after surveying all of our options, had a traditional Japanese lunch (pictured at the top of the post).  This was like no bento box I'd ever seen and the servers were all in full kimonos with the toe socks and flip-flops.

Oh, well, this gives us time to navigate the subway...


For dinner, we headed to Inakaya with E's coworker.  Much yelling and cooking of items as ordered ensued.  E was recruited to pound mochi with a large wooden dowel while men who looked like sumo wrestlers yelled at him.  The food was delicious but couldn't begin to outweigh the hilarity of the experience.

And then it was Monday, time to go home.  Some work, another trip to the awesome gym/spa for me while E met with potential Japanese customers, then a quick trip to the market to buy rice triangles and rice crackers for the bus to the airport.

And voila, here we are.  Back home.

February 2, 2014

A Super Sunday

I woke early.  In the dark. To the sounds of rain.  Ordinarily, I'd be annoyed at rain on a race day.  But California needs rain so badly (and I really do want to have a decent garden this summer without too much guilt) that I just thought, "I *LOVE* that it's raining.  I *LOVE* that it's raining."

I headed to Starbucks and compiled a pre-race feast of a tomato-cheese croissant, skinny vanilla latte, water bottle and banana.  Yeah -- unlike the Foster city 10 miler, I could tell right away that today was going to be a good belly day, so I wanted to pre-load (and I did, easily putting everything except all the water away before parking).  (I may not be fast but when it decides to engage, I've got an invincible gastro-intestinal system and a body that can take more long distance damage without too much trouble than is appropriate.)

The drive to SF was easy.  Parking near the finish was a piece of cake at 7:20 or so.  I walked to the buses and got on one in 5 minutes.  Side note, Kaiser SF is a *very* well run race. Apparently, it's the largest Half Marathon in Northern California. Yet it's still reasonably priced, and has free shuttles from the finish parking to the start that are plentiful and easy to board. Bless you Kaiser SF! No medals this year, but nice long sleeve shirts and the saved $ donated to charity -- excellent priorities!

I was at the entrance to the park by 7:45.  I walked into the park towards the start, got in line for the porta potties, heard my name and was happy to see Jen, who I *knew* was going to smash her 2 hour goal.

We started together, crossing the mat at around the same time.  I didn't see her again until she was at approximately mile 10.5 and I was somewhere after mile 9.  The out-and-back along the Great Highway was particularly brutal this year because the rain picked up, as did the wind opposing the runners heading uphill and south.  I had to stop to walk to put my long sleeve jacket back on and confirm that my mp3 player had died due to exposure to the elements (I think).

Overall, it was a great day.  I cleanly met 4/6 of my goals, and by Boston Marathon rules, I get # 5 as well... (Final time, 2:20:42, 10:44/mile AVG pace, first 6 miles in 1:02:22 10:03/mile AVG pace.)

Lunch after the race was so absolutely enjoyable -- KT gets mad props for organizing.  I sincerely enjoyed hanging out with female law school colleagues that were hand selected by people I know -- It's so rare that I get to spend time with people who share random things like career ambitions, experiences, gender, and life that I felt so lucky.  Bonus, several of these folks were people I only knew through the shit-talk of fantasy football.  Say what you will about gender/societal norms -- I don't care about your gender or class, I just dare you to do a season of FF and *NOT* feel an immense connection with the group of strangers from your league when you meet them in real life.

At some point, the Super Bowl started.  As a proper San Franciscan, this year, I didn't really pay attention.  I went to the train station.  I picked up E.  We went to the hospital.  We hung out with KG and CD.  She's kicking ass.  We did a lap.  She regaled us with tales of doing stairs (1.5 days post open heart surgery).  I had the presence of mind to order a side of mac and cheese at brunch, which I brought and she enjoyed.  I felt so good to have actually brought something joyful into that hospital room.  We left before halftime when it became apparent that visitors hours were tiring her.

We drove home.

We had no real food in the house.  I put together one of the most inspired random clean-out-the-kitchen dinners I've done in a while:  Wok Bindhi Masala.

Butter - melt in wok over medium heat
3 shallots, chopped -- sautee
4 garlic cloves, minced -- sautee
cumin powder -- add to sautee
tumeric powder -- add to sautee
cayenne powder -- add to sautee
ginger powder -- add to sautee
curry powder -- add to sautee (note: spices are open to interpretation in terms of amounts and type)

1 bag frozen okra -- rinse and drain, toss in wok, stir fry
1/2 pint canned home-grown tomato sauce -- add, stir, move to high heat, add additional spices and salt to taste
3 T corn meal to thicken (I used polenta) -- when taste is correct, add thickener, lower heat, stir until correct consistency, remove from heat, allow to cool

And that my friends, was our Super Sunday.  I hope you enjoyed yourself as well.

January 30, 2014

Kaiser Half Preview: May I Run With a Grateful Heart

A good friend of mine had open heart surgery today.  It was a shock when she found out she had a heart tumor earlier this week, but it went well and she's recuperating in the cardiac ICU now.   I am grateful.

I plan to visit her on Sunday in SF after the race.  So that's my goal -- I want to finish, and I want to visit my friend in the hospital and confirm with my very own eyes that she's on the road to her recovery.

Everything else is pure gravy.

I think everyone has areas of their life where they focus and stress.  I probably have more of these areas than most people, but, running just isn't one of 'em.  A while back, it may have been, but at some point I realized that in order for running to function as a stress relieving hobby for me, I just had to let go and let it be whatever I needed it to be for me at the time.  I couldn't let my hobby be a source of stress for me.

And it hasn't been.  Not for years.

The downside to this is that thanks to this lack of commitment and discipline in my hobby and the fact that it's been the only major source of exercise/calorie management in my life for the last decade, I'm currently working my way out of the worst shape I've ever been in as a runner  (I have to add this caveat, because I was once in worse shape when I was "not a runner" but I was much younger and bounced back much faster as soon as I *became* a runner).

Anyways, it's slow going.  I just checked -- All of the average paces for my runs in 2014 are in the double digits per mile.  Yes, I've done the occasional faster mile and several speed segments that dipped into the 7s and even the 6s/mile for the short stuff.  But there's no evidence of any long efforts that average sub 10/mile in my log for this year.

A younger me might find this depressing. 

I find it to be oddly liberating.  Slightly more than 12 months ago, I was approximately 10 pounds lighter and ran the fastest half marathon I've run in 2+ years.  But I'm obviously nowhere near that situation right now.  I'm so far from it, actually, that it's quite easy to set goals that have never looked like goals in the past and yet know I will feel proud if I meet them.  So, in the bloggy interests of oversharing the mundane, here you go (each additional goal assumes the accomplishment of the goal prior to it):

Perfectly Satisfied Goal:   Finish 13.1 miles and get to the hospital to visit with newly stitched up open heart surgery patient friend.  I will be grateful and happy if I am lucky enough to meet this goal.

Better Than Satisfied Goal:   Finish in sub 2:30 (11:27/mile pace).  I feel pretty good about the possibility of achieving this one and it will be a step in the right direction, fitness-wise to complete the whole distance without walking as I haven't run 13.1 miles straight since September of 2013.  (Bonus, this one means I'll have enough time to join some law school ladies for brunch after cleaning up.)

Obviously Proud of Myself Goal:   Finish in sub 2:27 (11:13/mile pace).  This is slightly faster than what I managed for the 10 miler.  I'm hopeful this is doable because I'm not planning to gorge my gullet with party food and drinks the night before the race and perhaps I won't have gastrointestinal side effects as a result.  One can dream, right?

Impressed With My Dedication Goal:   Finish in sub 2:23 (10:55/mile pace).  Sub 11 pace overall would feel just great (see what I mean about liberating?)

I Am a Sucker For Round Numbers Goal:   Finish in sub 2:20 (10:41/mile pace).  Based on my speedwork, this one should be doable.  But, my mileage has been low...

Stupid Grinning Happy Best Case Scenario Goal:   Finish in sub 2:15 (10:18/mile pace).  I don't think this is entirely impossible, so I'm putting it here to give myself something to strive for if all goes perfectly on race day.

Wish me luck.  But more importantly, take a moment to be grateful for your life, health, friends, and family.  Life is precious and fleeting and we are all so very lucky.

January 27, 2014

When Did Time Speed Up?

How is it possible that 2014 is almost 1/12 done?  Every time I see them, my nieces and nephews confirm that they age at light speed - they are becoming adults, incrementally, before my very eyes.  Also, apparently, I've been running my own law firm for almost 4 years now.  WTF?

In other news, last week was gone in a quick blink, but typical.

I helped a client close a HUGE deal that will be announced this week.  It was fun, but also super stressful and like all big time-sucking-and-stress-inducing deals, I'm glad it's behind me (and that we were able to find an acceptable compromise -- I actually got a thank you email from opposing counsel regarding my responsiveness and reasonableness, which was a pleasant surprise).

The running was good on the scale of recent running.  32.49 miles total including approximately 7 miles of walking, the majority running at an easy pace, a great 8X400 workout at sub 8/mile for each interval, and, because I hadn't registered, I skipped the planned 10K on Sunday in lieu of an 11 miler broken into 3 w/u easy to the park, 5 easy with the local nascient running group (low 11 pace), and 3 c/d easy solo back home.  It was my first 11 mile run since the Zoom Point Pinole Half, so that's something to celebrate.  Also, I felt like I needed to get in one more double digit run before showing up at Kaiser SF next Sunday, so I'm pleased that it worked out.

I finally made it to the new local Yoga studio today.  I did the "Hour of Power" (you heard).

Yikes.  Apparently, my 2 years of Bikram didn't maintain as much core and arm strength as I'd thought.  Or, perhaps, the weight gain makes it harder for my arms and core to do their job.  No matter what the explanation, I was glad this class was only an hour and I'm fairly certain I'm going to be quite sore tomorrow.  At multiple points in the class, I was shaking.  As in, my muscles thought they couldn't hold the pose and my brain was forcing them to do so, but the body was fairly certain the brain was an idiot.  Mind you, this wasn't an advanced class.  If nothing else, I confirmed that it's probably a good thing that I'm deviating from a pure Bikram/recumbant bike/walking cross-training regimen to something a little more strength-demanding.

I sent my niece the boxed set of Harry Potter for her birthday and she agreed to re-read the first 2 and go through the whole set, *if* I read them with her.  How could I refuse?  Making a calendar appointment to go pick up book one from the library this week... 

And finally, on Saturday, after a Friday night of reliving our youth with friends in the Mission (we had no reservations, walked aimlessly, stood in many lines and, once in one of the bars, did *shots* -- I haven't done a shot in at least 10 years!), and the next day's obligatory sleeping in and a short run by me, we walked to a lovely lunch of oysters etc. at Waterbar.


The view from Waterbar.

What we didn't know was that we'd sat for lunch in time to view the 10th Annual Walk For Life.

All in all, it was fairly anti-climactic.  No yelling.  No fetus photos.  Just thousands of folks exercising their 1st amendment rights, peaceably marching with signs, most of which were clear but not inflammatory, many of them carrying church banners from parts of California that most of the SF folks didn't recognize (Yolo, Butte, Sutter, Kern, Kings, Yuba, Modesto/Fresno [okay, those two are likely recognized]).  It was obvious that many of the folks were much more excited about being in San Francisco than they were about being in the walk, which made me proud that SF just let them come and do their thing and didn't really react to them at all.

Our (flamingly gay African American) server stopped by and asked, "Are you enjoying the show???"

E responded, in typical fashion, "I just want to troll so badly... 'Menstruation is Murder' or 'Gay Marriage Stops Abortion' but I just can't help but thinking that they are barking up the wrong tree, and so earnestly, it's kind of sad..."  Our server smiled, agreed that they were probably preaching to the wrong choir, and went about his day.  As did the rest of the city.

In light of the realities of conflicted political and religious views and the events they cause in the rest of the world, this display of peaceful speech made me more proud to be an American than just about anything I've ever experienced. 






Peace. Love.  Free Speech. Democracy.  Equal Protection.  All *very* good things.  We can agree to disagree about the rest over a nice delicious lunch with a beautiful view.

January 23, 2014

Going With the Flow (NYE Goal Check-in)

I've set a record this year for breaking my first New Year's Resolution the earliest in the year ever.

It's a PR!

On January 13, not even two full weeks into the year I failed to meet my goal of having finished every book club book this year by the actual meeting.

In my defense,  The Age of Innocence, just wasn't doing it for me.  I was shocked that this book was from the same author as The House of Mirth, which I adore.  I couldn't get into it.  I definitely had enough time to finish it, I was just too annoyed with the characters to do so.  So, I'm resetting and committed to finishing Wuthering Heights for next month.

On the running front, I'm slowly getting back in shape, which is nice.  I did 8X400 at track day yesterday and hit all of them at sub-8/mile pace, fairly consistently, which made me happy (1:58; 1:54; 1:56; 1:56; 1:57; 1:57; 1:56; 1:56). The effort wasn't actually that hard, which was ideal because I'm registered for a 10K this weekend so I didn't want the track workout to be my best effort for the week.  Bonus -- today, I'm not very sore.  Also, I'm doing very well on the running with joy front.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), one of the half-marathons I registered for this Spring is no longer on my schedule.  E's family wanted us to join them to go skiing in Jackson Hole that week and it was a no-brainer as to which option was more attractive. 

On the space front, I'm trying.  I have been better about balancing my time and building in empty space, but it's a work in progress.  I'm still ridiculously over-booked, but less so than historically.

For yoga, I still need to get in to try out the new studio.  I'm hopeful I may be able to make it happen today or tomorrow.  This one's tough to balance against the "leave space in my schedule" goal.  We'll see...

I pulled the winter garden and will be starting my seedlings this weekend, so that one is in good shape.  I'm a bit concerned about the drought we're experiencing in California.  I may need to scale back the garden this Summer, but I'll start my seedlings with expectations and hopes for miracle rain/snow just in case.

On the professional/financial reverse goal side I opted not to compete to get a new client today, telling them to stick with their larger law firm, since they'd negotiated a discount that eliminated my economic advantage.  This, my friends, is *major* progress for me.

January 16, 2014

Washington Tidbits

I'm in Eastern Washington right now, helping my sis out with her kids while her husband is on night duty for his residency.

On my flight over, I had a layover in Seattle, and on take-off from SEA-TAC, the mountain was out:


(Apparently the difference between the beat frequency of this prop and the scan frequency of my camera wasn't too bad.  But if you're curious about that random sliver of an almost propeller blade in the photo, check out the random photos that can occur and the explanation therefor.)

In other news, apparently Frozen Fog is a thing.

It looks like this (it can be accompanied by minor snow flurries) and it makes it very difficult to drive:



January 13, 2014

Running (Jogging?) Back Into Distance

Yesterday, thanks to a discount code and motivation from Jen, I ran (barely) the Foster City 10 mile race.

Thanks to Jen for the (no drama, just smiles) finish line photo.

The night before, we went to some friends' house for a belated holiday party and filled up on margaritas, wine, caramel corn, bread and cheese, prosciutto, smoked salmon and very rare prime rib.  I volunteered to be the DD and managed to limit my celebration to one serving of most of the food and one margarita and a couple of glasses of wine interspersed with at least 5 glasses of sparkling water over 5+ hours.  Perfect pre-long-run (note: yes, 10 miles is a long run for me right now) loading, right?

At 4 AM, E woke me up, puking.  At 5:30 AM, I woke with lower abdominal cramps, similar to the discomfort I felt in Cambodia when my traveling companions were suffering severe gastrointestinal distress and an inability to go anywhere due to a constant need to be near the bathroom -- Awesome.  I just hoped for the best and went back to sleep.  At 6:55, when I woke for the race, I seriously considered dropping out.  I had no idea what was going on with my stomach, but suspected it could actually be a true gastrointestinal infection.

But... Jen was going and I was looking forward to catching up with her.  After coffee and getting dressed I decided I would drive to the race and at *least* attempt the 5K -- I figured if it was something serious, my body would let me know.

I arrived, picked up my bib, met up with Jen and tried to ignore the freezing cold and cramping in my lower belly.  My Garmin was completely without a charge, which was just as well...I knew I wasn't going to be pushing the pace even before I had the stomach issues.  See, due to the fact that I'm *very* protective of my body and will stop running hard at the teensiest hint of an injury, and the fact that the last couple months of the year were a ridiculous whirlwind of travel, I haven't run 10 miles in one go since last September.

In fact, the longest run I've done since September was December's virtual Jingle Bell Hell -- which was more of a run/walk and not exactly an inspirational effort.

I headed out with the runners at the start and made it to mile 1 before I decided I need audio distraction.  I put in my headphones and decided I'd re-evaluate my belly situation at the 5K turn-around.  Thankfully, after 1.5 miles of running, my stomach felt better, so I decided to just try my luck.  My very simple goal was to just keep a nice easy run/jogging pace and to avoid walking as much as possible.  I succeeded.  I was slow -- as in, the folks around me were Gallo-walking.  They'd pass me on their run segments and then I'd pass them on their walk segments.  But, I didn't stop to walk except when it was time to take in Gatorade at the aid stations.

My body was very nice to me and didn't decide it needed a bathroom 'til mile 8.  Of course, this is right around the point where the bathroom availability disappeared on the course.  Thankfully, I was able to push through to the end and just keep going over the finish line straight to the restrooms.

Final results: 10 miles in 1:52:30 @ 11:15/mile pace (I took the 13 seconds or so it took me to get across the start line very seriously and deducted them from my official results, 11:15/mile is just so much more respectable than 11:16, don't you think?).

I'm very happy with how this worked out.  I just ran, enjoyed my audiobook, and had a great time -- my running with joy goal was met.  Plus, Jen and I got to go stuff our faces with mediterranean food afterwards while we caught up, which was fun *and* delicious.

Total miles for the week: 23.97, including the 10 mile "race", some speedy short work at track day (200s? 100s?  yeah, my butt, legs, and core were a bit confused about how fast and short those segments were), about 3-4 miles of walking, and the remainder at easier mid 9s and 10s.

So, now that I've passed the 10 mile (run with joy) mark, my new goal is 12 miles (ran with joy).  Not sure when I'm going to fit this one in, but the goal is to get it done sometime before Kaiser Permanente, so that I know I can run/jog a half marathon before I show up.  Thank goodness for races -- without them, I wouldn't have any distance goals at all...

January 6, 2014

2014 Goals

It's that time of year again and my goals this year fall into several categories:

1.  Space.  When it comes to space, physically, I'm pretty good.  I don't generally succumb to clutter and I regularly purge physical things (although, truth be told, right now, due to holiday gifts, I have an abundance of cardboard boxes in our living room that need to be dealt with).  While spatially, I may be good, temporally, I'm terrible.  I used to compare myself against my mother and congratulate myself, but as I've aged, I've realized that even my *very* laid back father was actually a work-a-holic and dedicated socialite who regularly over-booked his time, so, other than my lovely husband who taught me to build in "do-nothing" days on vacation, I have no good role models on this very important topic and my continuum is skewed heavily to the over-extended time side.  I regularly let my time become so crowded that everything I want to do only fits if *everything* goes *exactly* according to plan (side note, this makes me very intolerant of others who have loser definitions of time and inconvenience me).  When the inevitable happens and everything doesn't fit, I triage.  And I do it well.  But, the needs in an emergency are very different than the needs one could address by being thoughtful with foresight.  I've realized that by neglecting to intentionally build in enough buffer space for life, which *never* goes completely according to plan, I'm partially responsible for all of these emergencies that make me triage anxiously while my blood boils.  So, my very hard to quantify goal for 2014 is to maintain enough temporal space that emergencies only happen when they are *relatively* unavoidable.  Note -- startups operate in full-on emergency-all-the-time mode, so professionally, I can't completely control for this one.  But I can admit that it exists and structure my personal life accordingly, which is something I haven't done in the past.  I'm not sure how to quantify this one, but I think I'll be able to be honest with myself about whether I'm successful or not come year-end.

2.  Yoga.  It was with a sad heart that I read the Vanity Fair piece on Bikram being sued for rape and sexual harassment.  Given that I already have a love-hate relationship with Bikram Yoga, this article pushed me over the edge (even if all of the allegations are false, the tone of many in the Bikram community who were interviewed had a high ick factor).  So, my 2014 goal is to find a new studio where I take an average of one class a week.  I am happy to learn that there is a hot yoga studio nearby that only heats to 90F instead of 105-108F.  The class I took in Barcelona was only heated to around 90F, as have been other classes I've taken in SF, ATL, my hometown, and more -- and 90F is just so much more doable than the Bikram-prescribed super-heat. In the mid-100s around 60 minutes is where I really start to devolve into a serious mental struggle not to storm out of the room in annoyance -- yes, no doubt that mental discipline to stay in the room has value, but it's so unpleasant that it means it's hard for me to motivate to attend and I end up dreading and/or finding reasons to skip my yoga practice.  So I'm looking forward to finding a class I can commit to without such a huge mental conflict.  Also, E and I agreed to do 1 healthy day a week during 2014 where we do a minimum of 30 minutes of yoga together, eat only vegetarian food, and consume no alcohol. 

3.  Running.  Oh boy.  I've got a 10-miler, a 10K, and 2 half marathons on the calendar between now and the end of March.  I just wrote up a training schedule that is reasonable for the distances but not *that* demanding and I'm looking forward to trying to stick to it.  Overall, with running, I think my goal this year is to run with joy.  Again, with the impossible to quantify goals!  But, seriously.  I enjoyed hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track so much that if I had time to hike every day instead of running, I honestly think I'd prefer to do that.  This was a huge revelation to me.  I *like* running.  But I don't *love* it the way many in the running community do.  It's functional for me.  It fits (see #1 -- because I'm bad about allocating time, running has been very pragmatic for me in terms of fitting in workouts for the last decade of my life).  I'm very goal oriented, so signing up for races and following training plans means that the runs have importance and will likely get done, unless it's serious triage time.  But the true *joy* of running for me has been few and far between in the last several years -- I do know that I get much joy from running with friends (yay track day and long runs with friends!) and running at paces that aren't pushed while listening to audiobooks, so I'm going to try to maximize those activities along with any and all other running activities that make me feel happy to be alive.

4.  Books.  As I mentioned, audiobooks became such a part of my life this year that they are no longer eligible for goal-setting, they're like my version of television.  So, I think I'd like to have a goal of reading *all* of the book-club books this year (again, back to #1, I was unable to read one of the assigned books this year because work and life spiraled out of control and something had to give, so it was my book club book -- I hosted the club and had to ask silly questions about how the book ended).  On top of that, I think aiming for 24 books read total is a good idea.  In 2013 I hit 21, so I think I should be able to do 24 without too much unreasonable effort.  Plus, I want to be someone who *reads* books.  Yes, audiobooks are awesome, and I sincerely enjoy them, as evidenced by their complete insertion into my daily life and my removal of them from the goals.  However, my experiment whereby I listened to and then read The Great Gatsby (for book club) definitely confirmed for me that I lose quite a bit when I just listen to the audiobook.  The mental effort and reward for me is *much* higher when I actually read (and turn the page for that matter, as I don't have an e-book-reader).

5.  Garden.  Historically, I've never included the Garden in my goals, it's my hobby, and I've always found a way to fit it in somewhere.  But in the interests of #1 -- I'm trying to be honest with myself about what takes time in my life and what I'd like to accomplish, so I'm adding it this year.  I'd like to get my seedlings started before the end of the first week of February.  Normally, I just do this, but this year it will be a bit more complicated because all of the heat mats for the seedlings are currently deployed under Guito's cage.  (I should probably buy him better heat sources and take the mats back for the garden.)  I'd also like to do the following:

a) Get the winter garden cleared out and covered with plastic before the end of February so weeds don't grow.

b)  Turn the soil, add compost and other amendments, and fully prep the beds for planting before the first of May.

c)  Get seedlings in the ground ASAP after the last frost as the weather permits.

d)  Get the tomato cages and staking for beans, squash, etc. all done before June.

e)  Be home for the majority of the harvest season so we can enjoy the bounty of the Garden.

6.  Professional/Financial.  For the record, ever since I was a teenager, I've had goals in these areas but I've never felt the need to share them -- they've just taken first priority over everything else in my life except my family/friends (and, sometimes, if I'm honest, they've even beat those out).  So, I've almost always met them.  This year, my professional/financial goal is to recognize that my life is at a point today where it's okay if I miss a professional or financial goal if I have to do so to meet one of the goals above.  And the big goal is to {gasp} let go enough to let that happen.  I suspect this is actually the hardest goal I'm setting for 2014.

  

January 4, 2014

Closing out AUS and NZ

Day 4 of the Queen Charlotte Track did not go according to plan.  E was limping -- the ice, aspirin, and aspercreme had not been sufficient to stop the knee pain.  Could he have hiked the full 20K on the slippery track after days and nights of rain in time to reach the boat cut off at 4 PM?  Probably.  Did it makes sense for him to do so?  No.

So, after 0.25 miles up the hill, we agreed to head back down to the resort and take the next boat service back to Picton.

We arrived at Picton in time to re-book ourselves for a night in Marlborough wine country!  Bonus! (Aside: Marlborough looks almost *exactly* like Edna Valley from the golden creased hills to the native plants, to the intermittent deep green trees and vegetation planted by the farmers and the interrupting red barns).



After check-in, we expressed interest in wine-tasting, but we were informed that all of the wine tours for the day had already departed.  We called the shuttle manager for the service we'd used to get from the train station to our hotel, and he assured us we were "good as gold" to get in on his current driver's tour, so long as we didn't mind paying full price for only *4* wineries instead of *6*.

6 Wineries in an afternoon is standard?  Let's be clear.  In the event of alien invasion, we want the Kiwis as our ambassadors.  Yikes!

We had a wonderful abbreviated tour of my favorite any-day drinking wine region (there are other regions I prefer, but they are not affordable enough for me to be super-familiar with all of their offerings -- for no-guilt opening of bottles I know I will enjoy, Marlborough is the winner).

Mmmmmm....delicious.

Jane Hunter is a bad ass lady -- inspirational.

We had the shuttle drop us off in downtown Blenheim and we had a true pub food dinner.  A *MASSIVE* plate of fish and chips (with bonus fried calamari) for me while Nolan had the fillet (pronounced fill-it).

From there, we headed back to our hotel, slept, and then woke late, lazy.  We'd originally hoped that the bad weather would hold so our Picton flight would be re-routed to Blenheim like our flight in, but when I called at 10 AM, I was assured that this was not the case for this day.  So, I headed out for a quick short 2.15 mile run through wine country (we were pressed for time, but how could I resist?).  From there, we checked out, dropped our luggage at the front desk and headed to the cafe across the street for the most languid, decadent brunch feast ever.






As we sat finishing our wine, a large man sat down and asked for us by name.  Turns out, he was the shuttle driver and since everything in this region is shuttles or private car, we were treated to some standard local culture.  He'd added some folks to his itinerary and if we could hurry it up that would be best for him.  He left us, went across the street, picked up our luggage (again with the complete lack of ID/veracity check) and came back for us and off we set so he would have time to include his additional charges.  As a result of his enthusiasm, we arrived at the super-quaint Picton airport almost an hour early.





Thankfully, the waiting area was essentially a park, so we both read and enjoyed our books.  The weather was getting worse, so we quickly set off as soon as the plane arrived, turning around in this cul-de-sac before heading to the far end for take-off.


We made it.  The weather held and we got to Wellington without too much chaos.  Here's a shot of the South Island behind us as we head to the North Island from the plane:




After that, it was nothing but New Year's and then home.  

It was an awesome trip.  Happy 2014 to all of my loyal readers! (all 14 or so of you!)