September 27, 2015

Lunar Eclipse

How cool is this?
Lunar Eclipse from our yard.

It was overcast at the start but cleared up towards the end.  So cool

Today's 10K? Meh.

Today, I ran the Rock 'n Roll San Jose 10K.

It was fine.  Not great.  But I finished.  Any time you finish a race, I think you have to acknowledge that it's a good thing.  So Yay! 

I took the first mile by effort and finished in 9:24.  Things Looked good.  It wasn't actually as hot as I'd worried it would be.  I figured I'd slow a bit over the miles, but hoped to cross the finish line with a sub-10 min/mile average pace.

Mile 2 was 10:04.  Not great, but I wasn't pushing it or even looking at my Garmin except at the mile splits, so I wasn't too concerned.  I figured I just needed to increase my effort level.

Mile 3 I walked through the water station, and afterwards, I started looking at my Garmin, trying to pick up the pace to compensate for the break.  While I did get the pace to decrease over the course of the mile, I failed to get it below 10 minutes. (10:28 including the water walk break). 

At this point, I figured anything sub-10 min/mile average was the goal where I should focus.


Except, my belly was not on board with this plan.  I needed a porta-john, and there weren't any at any point in Mile 4 (10:46).

The situation was getting dire, and I was very uncomfortable.  After the Mile 4 marker, I did 0.22 painful miles at a struggling pace of 11:29/mile until I finally saw a porta-john.

I stopped, and stood in a line of about 10 people who I assume were all wondering (like me) what the HELL happened with the lack of toilets on Mile 4.

5 minutes and 44 seconds later, my heart rate had slowed, my legs had cooled down, and I was back on the course, trying to rally.

I had visions of busting out 2 hard miles at full effort.  Instead, I put up a 10:15 mile followed by a 10:41 mile. 

Thanks to the long stop, there was no one running near me for those last 2 miles that was anything close to my pace.  And, I just couldn't motivate to go any faster.  I was passing people consistently the entire time (and was being passed by the leaders of the half marathon blazing in the lane to my right on their final mile), but I couldn't seem to find a way to pass the folks in my lane *faster*.

Oh well.  It was a solid run (AVG 10:18/mile for the running portions says the Garmin).  Certainly a good workout. 

Total mileage for the week was a good 33.4 (including some hiking and trail running with local bay area runners at a park on Saturday followed by a delicious brunch).  I'm looking forward to my next 10K, which is a trail run.     

September 24, 2015

2015 Books Read, Part II

Books 1-14 for the year are here.  The next 15 are below.

Boys In The Boat
Daniel James Brown
Book club book.  Very interesting insight into the reality of the dust bowl and the Depression as it affected those in the pacific northwest.  A feel-good tale of hard work and perserverence.  Excellent way to learn a bit about rowing, crew, the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and the propaganda machine of Hitler.  If you like real-life feel-good sports stories, this one is a great member of the cannon.
Grimm — Children's and Household Tales
Lucy Crane Translation from the Original German with Walter Crane illustrations
First required reading for the online Sci-Fi and Fantasy course I deluded myself into thinking I had time to complete.  A bit repetitive, but overall, fun to see the origins of many of the tales that Americans learn in their kinder-gentler versions.
The Human Division
John Scalzi
An impressive serial novel.  If you care about the complexities of building coherent characters and worlds, this will impress you.  If you aren't a Scalzi fan before you read this and this doesn't convert you into one, you should probably call it a day with him, as I feel this book is a collection of some of his greatest tricks, which for me, was very fun and entertaining.  If it wasn't for you, you probably just don't really enjoy this guy’s writing, and that's fine too.
The Atrocity Archives
Charles Stross
Sequel to the Jennifer Morgue, in the Laundry Files.  Similar in style -- fast, geeky, otherworldly, fun, and a bit hard to follow at times, but in a stretch-your-imagination kind of way.
Daisy Miller
Henry James
A 58-page novella, much discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I read it to help round out the books discussed in RLIT.  Historically, it's an interesting piece of writing, putting the difference between the individuality of America vs. the conformity to society of Europe at the time in sharp contrast.  As promised, the sentences were long and convoluted, but they worked.  This one is an example of a book I read for book club that makes me feel more educated and well read, primarily because it has great historical context and I doubt I would have picked it up on my own.
Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
If you know Cory Doctorow's philosophy, this story will fit neatly into your understanding of his position on the world.  Book club book.  Enjoyable.
Charles Stross
A fascinating, but very difficult to follow thought experiment with many forks.  Uploaded consciousness, humanity, space travel, and post-human consciousness.  Very enjoyable for me, but it would not be something I'd recommend to folks who are on the fence about sci-fi.  I think I'll likely re-visit in a year or two.  I really enjoyed it, it was just very difficult work to maintain connection to anything that was happening... it's running quickly and confusingly and you're just along for the ride.
Off To Be The Wizard
Scott Meyer
This was a gift from my sister-in-law and she knows me well.  It was a fun concept.  Essentially, a programmer finds the master file that governs all human life and manipulates it to his own benefit until law enforcement catches up with him.  He then banishes himself into medieval England and lives as a wizard.  Adventures ensue.  Simplicistic writing -- at times it felt like it had to be a Young Adult book, but it's well executed and great light brain candy.  FWIW, E found the writing annoying enough that he had no interest in finishing the series, so I moved to audiobooks for the last 2.
Find the Good
Heather Lende
Sappy?  Yes.  A bit.  But still worth it for the wonderful life lessons and glass-half-full perspective of a small-town Alaskan obituary writer.  A gift from a friend that I will re-gift soon.
The Peace War
Vernor Vinge
Unmistakenly Vinge.  Time travel.  Political power and intrigue built around fundamental humanity/singularity/consciousness conflicts that make you think hard about what it means to be alive and human.  Linguistic head nods to Chinese and Spanish that call out his time in California in a way that make this multi-generational Californian smile with recognition.  Unlike many hard sci-fi writers of his era, his writing is so impressively inclusive, strong characters appear in both genders, multiple sexual orientations, every racial identity (although that concept is stretched imaginatively), and more.  Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the concept of "bobbling" and the thought experiment it allowed in his book as well as the one it forced me to engage in.  If you love hard sci-fi, this book is a must-read for you.  If you like the idea of hard sci-fi, but struggle with the history of the overtly alpha white male perspective voice, this book is a great option to show that just because the author is a white male born in the 40s doesn't mean he can't imagine and write great characters and plot lines well outside of his experience (which, frankly, is the whole point of speculative fiction, and so I don't really get the whole Puppy drama at this year's Hugo Awards, but that's neither here not there).
The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
3nd in the Laundry Series -- fast paced bond-like, other worldly, math = interstellar magic-science fun.  Very enjoyable and a perfect beach read.
Flash Boys
Michael Lewis
I love me some Michael Lewis.  He can simultaneously educate and entertain like no other.  Suffice it to say that Wall Street is Fucked Up.  And there was a brief time in the last decade before some honest brave folks stepped up where it was even *more* fucked up.  Of course, the fact that it's openly discussed likely means that the current reality is much worse, but even so, this should be required reading for anyone who espouses that "the efficient markets will take care of it."  Turns out, fairness and efficiency aren't in the best interests of those who can exploit inefficiencies.  They'll "take care" of it all right...
Marooned in Realtime
Vernor Vinge
Sequel to the Peace War.  Very well done and enjoyable.  Predictably thought provoking about how to manage society in  a future where technology is so different and yet survival and human political and personal needs are still so very much the same.
Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.  I put it in the "good like vitamins" category of reading that we select for book club: Something that will be good for me, expand my horizons, make me better educated, etc.  But it's a *good* story.  It moves well.  It entertains.  Interestingly, while I didn't love the character of Mr. Rochester, I found myself deeply disliking Mr. St. John.  It would appear that I am willing to forgive quite a bit for romantic love, and not so much for a harsh and unfeeling religious conviction.
Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
The story of "Bertha" -- one of the major plot devices in Jane Eyre.  A completely different writing style, a totally different backdrop, and a very different portrayal of Mr. Rochester than Jane Eyre.  Fun to read and discuss with book club in connection with Jane Eyre.

September 19, 2015

An Actual Race Report!

Today, E and I ran the 49ers Rush, a 4.9K race.

The night before, we went out for Mexican food and margaritas.  Our favorite local Mexican restaurant is closing (moving, but closing the location where its been for 24 years, down the street from our house and regularly visited by us for 12 years).  Going and visiting one last time (or perhaps the 2nd to the last time -- we'll see how this week goes) was too important to let pre-race nutrition get in the way.

So, we woke sort-of prepared at 7 AM on Saturday, enjoyed some coffee, and drove to the new Levi Stadium.  Neither of us had seen it before, so that made the day a bit more fun as well.

I was hopeful that the speed intervals and heat training in LA would put me in a decent spot, but honestly, I didn't totally know what to expect, fitness-wise, as it's been a very long time since I actually *raced* a race.

The last several races I've participated in, I've just done them to get them done.  I haven't really pushed myself to the edge of my fitness since The Oakland Half Marathon, but pacing well through a half is very different than pushing on a shorter race.

Based on my speed intervals in Venice and what I perceived to be my general fitness, I decided I should shoot for sub-30 as a very doable goal (even with the crowds, stairs into the stadium, ridiculous numbers of turns, and walkers and unpredictable families/groups).  I told E I'd be thrilled with anything sub-28.

There were 3 start waves, but no enforcement, and by the time we went to line up, wave 1 was packed elbow-to-elbow with many folks who looked like they'd probably be walking a least a little bit.

We opted into wave 2, and watched wave 1 head out.  About 10 minutes later, they started wave 2.

Or rather, they tried to start wave 2.

There were drummers and cheerleaders and the announcer worked up the crowd, letting us know we would be starting soon, shouting 5-4-3-2-1, and then blowing his referee's whistle into the microphone (just like what he'd done for wave 1).

For some reason *all* of the people lined up on the front of the start line didn't go on the whistle.  The rest of the crowd leaned forward yelling, "Go!!!!" and finally, they went and we were off.

I'd angled for a position near the start, and I took off faster than I otherwise would with a goal of maneuvering through the folks who'd lined up at the start but were likely going to jog or walk rather than run.  After about 200 meters, E and I were in the first 20 folks or so of our wave and we hung on to that position for the first mile.  It was quite fun to look at hundreds of folks stretched out behind us as we headed back towards the stadium.  I'd never been that close to the "leaders" in a big race, ever.

E asked me for our pace at around 0.8 miles and I found myself surprised to report that we were on track for an 8:44 mile.  My effort was where I wanted it for a 5K, but I'd expected to be closer to 9:20/mile or so.  This was good stuff.

Did I mention it was cool this AM?  Thank you LA heat training!

We hit the Mile 1 marker at 0.95 miles on my Garmin and I assumed the course would likely be short.  Mile 2 slowed us down significantly as we starting needing to weave through the walkers from wave one (also, I was fairly certain there wasn't really any way I could sustain the 8:44/mile pace my Garmin claimed we hit for mile 1).

I told E I wanted to walk up the stairs into the stadium rather than run them, and he slowed to stay with me.  At the top, we passed the Mile 2 marker but my Garmin said it was 1.85 miles.  At this point, we entered the covered main concourse, so my Garmin wasn't super useful -- after a few minutes under the cover, it claimed we hit mile 2 at 18:45, which seems a little slow, but possibly correct.

For the last "mile", E paced a few steps in front of me until we turned the last corner into the stadium after the switchback down ramps.  He took off like crazy towards the finish and I kicked up my effort a bit, but not so much as to pass an adorable little girl of 6 or so, whose father encouraged, "See the Finish Line?  Give it all you've got!"  She was sped up to a speedy pace, passing folks on her way in, and while I could have (probably?) passed her, it seemed like a silly thing to try to do.

I crossed the finish line and my Garmin claims it was 2.61 miles in 25:59.30 (9:58/mile pace).  If the course was a true 4.9K, that would be an 8:33/mile average pace, which would be awesome, but I'm not buying it.

So, I blew by my sub-28 minute goal.  But, based on the mile marker placement at 1 and 2, I'm assuming the course was short.  I don't think it was *as* short at my Garmin said due to the covered portion, but I do think I slowed a bit after that blazing (for me) first mile.  So, I'm going to split the difference and assume the course was around 2.8 miles, which puts me at a 9:17/mile average pace.

Overall, I'm very happy (particularly because E enjoyed himself so much that on the way home he said, "We should try to run more local 5Ks."). 

It was fun to remember how good it feels to actually race, to see the new stadium, to finish on this year's Super Bowl field, and to spend the morning running with E.  Also, I'm very pleased to learn that I actually did make some fitness gains in the last few weeks, despite all of the travel.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how things play out in next week's 10K.

September 14, 2015

A Real Running Week!

Oh, such a happy post.

Last week, E and I were working from Venice, California.

Every morning except two, I woke and headed out to run on this gorgeous beach path.

Unsurprisingly, the venue did wonders for my running motivation.  The weekly mileage total? 28.7.  But more impressive, most of the workouts were quality in one form or another.  Unlike many of my previous weeks, very little of the mileage was walking.

Instead, I did 5 miles sub 10 min/mile, plus two workouts with intervals totaling 13X2:00hard/2:00recover intervals with the fast bits in the 9s or 8s/mile.

I also did the slowest 7 miler *ever* averaging 12:32/mile, but in my defense, I had to stop at every public beach bathroom and take a drink from the water fountain and use the shower to get some water on my head.  LA was in a heat wave, and I was in direct sun with no shade at 90F by 9:30 AM, which I hadn't intended.

I took today off my feet, opting to cycle on a recumbent bike whilst reading Jane Eyre to try to finish it before the book club.  I suspect my running may be on hiatus until book club on Wednesday.  Even so, I'm excited about last week's efforts and the likely benefits of the speed and heat training.

September 8, 2015

California Dreaming

Last week was split 4 days in San Francisco, 1 day at home, and a weekend in Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is HUGE
Thanks primarily to the client meetings in San Francisco, where I walked miles every day in addition to my scheduled runs, I had my biggest mileage week of the year -- 44.73 miles!  Running mileage totaled 20ish, including some speed intervals and a 5 miler with a good friend along the Venice beach path.  

Other than work being mellow and allowing me to very enjoyably split my time between two of the most beautiful cities in California, I have very little to report.  We had a great time hanging out with our SoCal friends this weekend and we ate wonderful food both in SF and in Venice.

Part of the spread at the SoCal BBQ.
My goal for this week is simple -- do my best to keep the mileage numbers somewhat in the same range as last week. 

August 31, 2015

Trying to speed it up

As my last post mentioned, I'm trying to focus on speed as I've got a 10K in 4 weeks (with a 4.9K tempo the week before).

Last week was a decent collection of some hot cross-training in the garden (I'm not kidding, 1.5 hour efforts of weeding, pruning, and harvesting in the sun are a total body workout), walking, a bit of jogging, and at least 20% hard effort, with the return to the track being the star of the show. 

Garden basil and tomatoes, E's grilled eggplant & burrata.

The day after track I went out for a 3 mile recovery run with a new friend from my local running group and was shocked to be reminded just how hard 11:30 pace can feel the day after speedwork.  Saturday's run turned into an hour walking on the phone with a good friend, followed by 3 miles walking to and from Brunch.  Sunday, I continued with the lazy weekend at home, waking up to plant myself on the couch, missing the local running group long run and finishing my book.  I'm not gonna lie:  it felt wonderful.

Unfortunately, I totally played myself as it had gotten much too hot by the time I finally set out.  My goal of at least 6 miles medium-easy quickly became 4.5 miles total of medium effort miles interspersed with some walking.   The weekly mileage total was 26.97 -- not great, but I would like to try to clear 30 for the next 3 weeks, so I'll need to find a way to step it up.

Despite the lack of serious running effort over the weekend, I had no guilt and easily enjoyed our date night out on Sunday night.

One of the best moriawase meals we've had in ages.
And now it's one of my favorite weeks of the year -- BURNING MAN.  When half of my clients and half of the people on the other sides of my deals are completely off work (which means I get a psuedo-vacation for free)!  My goal is to take advantage of this slow work week and get in a good easy effort medium/long run mid-week as well as a couple of speedier efforts and recovery runs.

August 26, 2015

Quick Running Update

Just because my once every 9 weeks yoga program has been working so well for me, I decided to head back to the track group after 28 weeks away.

It was a reverse ladder of 1200; 1000; 800; 400, 200 and 100.  I took it relatively easy because I knew there would be hell to pay, but I got a bit too excited on the 200 and 100, where I hit paces in the 6+ min/mile and 5+ min/mile range for the first time in, oh, probably at least 6 months.

My ass is so grumpy at me that it actually hurts to sit and work.

This update is now over.

August 25, 2015

Morning Memories of Prague

View of Prague from its mini-Eiffel tower.

I don't use an alarm clock, I just usually wake up at about the same time every day, and if I have an important morning commitment, I'll set an alarm, but I must store it in my subconscious while I sleep because in those cases, I typically wake up several times in the morning before the alarm.

I suspect this is why jet lag affects me much more strongly than E.  My body is fairly tightly tied to temporal patterns -- in fact, my internal clock is pretty damn good.  Most of the time, I can guess the time to within 5 minutes.

We got home on Sunday PM after 23 traveling hours.  I'd napped a bit on the plane, but was fairly tired, so I got almost a full night's sleep and woke for Monday's work day just a little groggy.  This morning, however, after going to bed around 10 PM, I woke at 3:30 AM and really couldn't get back to sleep.  I finally just got up at 4:30 AM and started taking advantage of the quiet time to be productive.

My plan is to head outside with my coffee and watch the sunrise.  In the meantime, let me tell you all about our weekend trip to the beautiful city of Prague.

Friday AM we got off to a bit of a rocky start, as I had some trouble finding the car rental location and for the first time in Germany, the English of the folks I asked for help wasn't good enough to get the job done.  I did my best to remind myself that travel always includes unplanned frustrations and logistical challenges, and eventually, after walking back to the hotel and getting a taxi to take us to the rental place, we were on the road.  Several hours of driving and sitting in traffic later, we crossed the boarder into the Czech Republic.  Immediately, all of the signs were completely indecipherable. 

The drive was gorgeous.  Tall spindly trees densely packed in woods where we imagined all the Grimm's tales taking place.
We checked into our hotel in time to enjoy dinner on its roof garden while watching the sun set.

Dinner View.
Later dinner view -- note the min-Eiffel tower.
The next day, we woke, enjoyed some cappuccinos and headed out for one of the best sight-seeing dates ever.  First we walked around the town near our hotel, visiting the Czech Senate courtyard and observing the craziness on the Charles Bridge from afar.

The protagonist in my most recent audiobook had raved about visiting the world's largest metronome in Prague and I was intrigued.  So we hiked up a hill and climbed many flights of stairs into a park and found it, as described.
That's a big metronome.

Ticking away in front of a skate park.
After enjoying the absurdity of the metronome, we wandered around the park a bit and found our way to a restaurant on the side of the hill with breathtaking views of the Vltava and Prague's many bridges near the old town.

Our unplanned lunch view.
I actually teared up a bit at lunch -- I couldn't completely believe that this was actually my life.  I was just so happy to be in such a wonderfully beautiful place, surrounded by various European languages, eating delicious food, and enjoying it all with E, who I love so very, very much.

Fortified with food, we walked to the old town and braved the crowds.  We were so glad we'd visited the metronome and restaurant first, as they had been calm and relatively uncrowded, whereas the old town and the Charles Bridge were a madhouse.

Old town square.

The oldest working astronomical clock in the world (since 1410).
We couldn't handle the crowds for too long, so we escaped back to the river and rented a paddleboat to paddle around and go under the Charles Bridge.

Paddle boats are surprisingly tiring. 

It really is a gorgeous bridge.
The paddleboat rental shop was also a bar, so after returning our boat, we relaxed at a table on the deck and sipped on big frothy mugs of czech beer to prepare us for crossing the Charles Bridge.  We made it.  Holding hands, single file through the crowds, with me leading because I will push people out of the way if necessary and E will not.

The second absurd sight I wanted to see was the Proudy (streams) mechanical statue by David Černý.  E indulged me.  Like the metronome, it was as described -- 2 men, with hips and penises that are articulated and peeing into a map of the czech republic.  Supposedly their piss streams write quotes from notable Prague residents.  Truly bizarre.  Fitting that it is in the courtyard of the Kafka museum.

After a short rest at the hotel, we headed out for our last big sight-seeing event of the day.  We hiked up yet another hill to the mini-Eiffel tower of Prague (The Petrin Lookout Tower).  Cleverly, the citizens of Prague decided they, too, could have a great view of their beautiful city from the top of a tower, like Paris.  But Prague has some large hills.  So, by placing the tower at the top of one of them, the lookout is very high, but the tower itself is relatively small (only 299 stairs to the top).

At the end of this awesome day full of sight-seeing and hiking (9 miles, including lots of stairs), we headed to an authentic czech food restaurant and enjoyed Pilsner Urquell with some wacky treats including pickled sausage and pickled camembert.  And finally, sadly, after a goodbye glass of wine enjoying the corner view, it was time to go to bed so we could start the long trip home.

Bonus -- Thanks to sightseeing runs and walks in Germany and Prague my weekly mileage was 38+.

August 22, 2015

Well Played, Heidelberg

View of the Old Bridge over the Neckar and some of the Old town from the funicular above the Castle.  So picturesque.
I was excited for our trip to Europe.  But, truth be told, the long flight with connections, the jet lag, and the reality that I'd be stuck in a hotel working while E was away at the conference all day during the work week meant that while I'd rather take the trip with E than stay home without him, Germany (where I don't love the food nor speak the language) didn't have me as beside myself as the last couple of Europe work trips.  I mean, no offense to Germany, but the last couple of Europe trips hadn't exactly stacked the deck fairly with Paris/Switzerland and Amsterdam/Barcelona.


Shows what I know.

The food was full of pleasant surprises.
German Cordon Blue.  Guy who ordered this is Southern.  He was in heaven.
Schweinebraten mit Semmelknodel und rotkraut.  You know, a light meal.  Not breaded and fried.
Spinatknodel (aka spinach and cheese dumplings -- umm, why didn't anyone tell me there were amazing German vegetarian delicious treats?)
In case you were worried that the stereotype of sausage everywhere wasn't true, I've added E's Currywurst lunch at a highway restaurant between Heidelberg and Prague.  Not pictured:  my lovely roast-vegetable and cheese open-faced sandwich.
Thanks to the slower work week, I was able to fit in several sight-seeing trips, including a half day of touristy fun with E.

Just an average sunset walk back to the hotel in this beautiful city.

View of the city from far above at the top of the funicular chain. 

Headed back down to town.
For lunch on our site-seeing day, we sat and enjoyed stereotypical German treats from the inside of a renaissance castle.

Heidelberg Castle

Just a delicious lunch of pretzels, kasespaetzle (German Mac&Cheese), bratwurst, and salad.  Mit Bier und Wein.
The gorgeous running trail along the Neckar with views of the Old Bridge.
 I fit in runs almost every day.  The street art was varied and impressive, although more often than not, in baffling English.
Seen on a run.

More adorable sights from a run.

Sunset from a roof garden restaurant.

So, first, I'd like to send a huge thank you to all of my clients who have been relatively quiet and calm this month of August.  I have no idea what's going on in the economy, but I sincerely appreciate the lack of pressure while traveling.  I found it very easy to complete all of my obligations in a couple of hours in the AM and another 2 or 3 hours in the evening.  The rest of my time was blissfully mine.

Next, I'd like to say that I had unfairly formed opinions of German food because I'd never really tried to find things that would cater more to my palette.  Turns out, in addition to deliciously fresh and authentic Italian and Greek and Middle Eastern food, Germany also offers some fabulous German foods I'd never given the time of day.  And I was wrong.

Finally, I'd like to thank the beautiful city of Heidelberg.  So walkable (note the jaunty walking man at the signals).  And so epically runnable along the river.
Love the jaunty little "time to walk" man.
Thanks, Heidelberg -- you did your job well.  Germany is now included in the multi-month European tour of my dreams.